Early on in my leadership career I made the statement to a group of nurses that patient experience was my number one focus. The response that I received was surprising, and clear, their message to me was that they expected their leader to focus on their needs, making them a priority over the goal of patient satisfaction. With disbelief I thought to myself, “I'd spent the prior year motivating my team around the needs and desires of the patient and communicating my expectations for improvement, what could they have missed?”
I left the meeting troubled and frustrated, chalking the experience up to union rhetoric, to later realize they were right! How could I dream of improving patient satisfaction with disengaged staff, or with staff that felt as if their needs weren't seen as a priority? If they're responsible for the patient, it's clear someone needs to be responsible for them.
As hospital administrators brace themselves for the expansion of value based purchasing, and an ever changing landscape of healthcare expectations, it's clear that patient satisfaction will be front and center. Many organizations will take the approach of developing performance tracking tools to assess compliance with tasks that are focused on achieving individual satisfaction metrics, burying front-line managers in work that may lead to alienating their direct care providers. As some hospitals find that their efforts lead to improvement, others will struggle with lack luster performance and un-sustained progress, leading to a vicious cycle of managing out low performers and developing more tools. The true problem is that many leaders lack the desire to develop the foundation before addressing the goal. Our staff knows what is needed to improve our performance, a partnership with them will lead to a fruitful, long lasting relationship that will benefit our patients and the bottom line. Successful leaders will guide their teams through the future of healthcare listening to their concerns and ideas and transparently sharing the information needed to shape and focus the team’s next steps.
As we move forward with addressing improvements in patient satisfaction and outcomes, it is time to set aside our beliefs and expectations, listen to the individuals doing the work and genuinely engage them. What we learn may be surprising but what we do with what we learn will shape a brighter future for the delivery of care, in the eyes of our staff and our patients.